Title: Banshee Tears
Summary: Mulder and Scully investigate a murder at a museum in Washington DC where they find an evil more prolific than anything they've encountered.
Author's Note: This story is inspired by my great enjoyment of the Halloween season, and the experiences I had volunteering in a museum many years ago. Lincoln is a fictional museum. This story takes place after Don't Go Down There, though you wouldn't have to read it to understand the following story. Feedback and constructive criticism welcome.
"The pious pretense that evil does not exist only makes it vague, enormous and menacing." Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) British Occultist. The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, ch. 33 (1929; rev. 1970)
Lincoln Museum Washington, DC Saturday 12:00am
Outside the Lincoln Museum Joe Danzia waited in his car, tapping his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel. Rain trickled steadily down the windows of his white Grand Am, obscuring a good deal of what he could see outside. He glanced at his watch. She was late again. Why on earth did she have to work so damned late on a Saturday night? She'd promised she'd be out of there by eleven forty-five! She'd been spending far too much time in that place lately. If he didn't know better he'd think she'd been sneaking a guy into the museum and doing the nasty on her big desk in her office. He felt his jealousy rise like an angry dog that snapped and bit at his heels. He knew she'd been seeing another man on the side, but he hadn't been able to catch her at it yet. Yet.
Lately she'd been acting funny. Detached. Like she might be ready to tell him something he didn't want to hear. Or as if she expected the bogey man to pop out any moment.
Shifting in his seat, he glanced over at the multiple Doric columns that made up the facade of Lincoln Museum. At the top of the columns was a freeze, intricate in design. It was the most unusual freeze he'd ever seen, and he'd perused many in his travels through Greece, Rome, Paris. This freeze depicted serpents, gargoyles, animals of all sorts in a wild frenzy...cavorting merrily among hapless humans that were torn to bits by the hell dwelling creatures.
He cursed. "Damned weird." Something shifted in his line of sight.
He looked around the area. He peered across the street at the museum again, certain he'd seen something. It didn't take long for him to home in on what that something was.
The half basement of the museum had been dark moments ago. Now the lights were going on in each window...one by one.
Human Resources Assistant Margaret Daily's heels created a tattoo against the wood floor as she moved through the offices on the ground floor of the museum. She'd been about ready to leave her office for the night when she decided enough was enough. She'd been listen to the banging going on in the basement for ten minutes. The heating system was probably on the blink again. About every three months it did this and the repairman was called to tinker with the thing and then it would stop for awhile longer.
She knew that Joe was waiting for her, but if the heating system was acting up and Dougie the security guard wasn't paying attention, she'd need to call Mac the maintenance technician and have him come to the museum right away.
Where the hell was Dougie anyway? He usually went on rounds every hour and checked on her, whether she liked it or not.
"Can't be too careful these days," he'd say to her, nodding his almost bald head at her and smiling. "Young lady like yourself wouldn't even have toiled late like this when I first started working here."
Hell, the old man was virtually worthless as a security guard but the Human Resources Director wasn't about to fire him. He was like a fixture in the building, someone that people gravitated toward and enjoyed talking with. People seemed to like him and he got along with children who did tours of the museum.
But at seventy, he was becoming brittle. Last winter he'd slipped on the attic steps and had broken his leg. For the time he was gone they'd hired new security guards. All of them had left in quick succession, never explaining why they wouldn't stay. Well, at least they'd never told her or the director of human resources. Instead they'd blabbed to the tabloids. Ridiculous stories about ghosts and goblins.
It had always been difficult to keep the museum in security guards. In the ninety-seven years the museum had been open, Dougie Crampers had been employed by the museum thirty-eight of those years. No one had been employed here as long as he had. As it was they only had two guards now. Dougie, and Al Zeitz, who worked during the day.
Crampers. Jeez, who had a name like that anyway?
When she reached the main lobby and headed toward the elevators, she heard the banging noise again. Only this time it right behind her. She whirled toward the sound, half expecting to see Dougie.
No one was there. She gazed at the surrounding area, taking in the information desk, the wide staircase to the second floor, the cream and rose of the marble columns that stood like huge sentinels near the front doors.
She looked to her right, toward the area where the Banshee Tears were going on exhibit in two days. If the exhibit staff could get the last minute repairs done to the case where the Tears were being placed, the exhibit would go on. A series of strange complications had mucked up their plans. Some of the staff were making comments about the Tears that bordered on ridiculous.
A whispering caught her attention. She stared at the large wooden double doors to the room and almost went over to try the locks. Was someone in there? She smiled. No, that was impossible. Dougie might be old, but he was thorough, and the other security guard Al was also. The chance of someone getting locked in any room in the museum was infinitesimal. Still, she walked toward the doors, listening intently. Drawn like a magnet, she reached for the doorknobs, placed her hands on their cold surface, gripped the metal.
The whispering had to be her imagination.
In fact, the silence was deafening. Like a hollow tomb that awaited its first dead. She recalled the horrid screech she'd heard the night before just as she was leaving the museum. A woman's scream. High pitched, more mournful than terrified, the sound had sliced through the her bones like a saw. She didn't turn around, go back inside and see if some poor woman was being murdered in the museum. Instead she'd fled down the front steps toward Joe's waiting car. She hadn't said a thing to him about what she'd heard. He'd think she was crazy. Apprehensive, she'd been surprised when she returned to work the next morning and had heard nothing about anyone finding a body, or some evidence that a person had been murdered.
She shivered. Ridiculous! She'd never had a particularly active imagination, and she wasn't going to start generating things-that-go- bump-in-the-night while she was working late. After the new exhibit was up and running and the temporary hires had left, she'd have less work to do and could get back to the eight to five routine. No more late nights. Her boyfriend Joe would be happy. The man was helpless without her. Christ, you'd think he would have learned how to feed himself. He was thirty-five years old and in the three months they'd been living together he'd relied on TV dinners when she worked late because he could barely boil water or make coffee without her help. She was beginning to wonder what she'd seen in the guy.
Okay, so she could remember what she'd seen in Joseph Carlo Danzia. He was the most impossibly good looking man she'd ever laid eyes on. And he was great in the sack. So what if he was interested in dull things like mummies and sarcophagi. Maybe that's why he was dating her. She worked in a museum and he was an amateur archaeologist. Maybe it turned him on.
Making a sound of disgust, she moved toward the cage elevator and pressed the button. The creek and groan of the ancient mechanism signaled that the elevator was coming up from the basement.
As the cage elevator opened, she stepped in, grateful for the small light at the top of the cage. After the inside metal door slid shut, she heard the squeak of the cage door close behind it. She inserted one of her numerous keys into the lock next to the button with a white B on it. As she turned the key the elevator whined again and descended. When it reached the basement the doors slid open.
The lights were on in the basement. Or at least in this part of the basement. Good. Nothing she hated more than coming down here in the dark. But if the lights were on down here, that meant that Dougie must be here, too.
"Dougie! Hey, Dougie, you down here?"
No response. Only that deep silence that wraps around like a thick, cloying blanket.
Taking a deep breath, she began to search the area, glancing around as she walked toward the back room that held the huge boiler heating system. A labyrinth system of rooms, the basement was storage space for artifacts and antiques. The museum registrar, the exhibit crew, and the maintenance man all had office space here as well, on the other side of the basement. As she turned a corner and headed past the service elevator, she felt a draft roll across her neck like a breeze from a freezer.
She turned and looked down the hall way she'd just traversed. "Dougie?"
Come to think of it, she hadn't heard the boiler clanking away since she'd got on the elevator. Maybe Dougie was around and couldn't hear her because he'd turned off his hearing aid again. Damn him.
"Dougie!" She walked toward the large room that housed the boiler. No one was in the room. "Shit."
Thoroughly disgusted with herself for wasting time, she headed back down the hall. She had almost reached the elevator when she caught sight of a figure to her right out of the corner of her eye. Startled, she glanced into the room nearest to her and stopped cold. She didn't see anything now. Walking toward the doorway, she peaked inside. Nothing. Only the hulking, malformed shapes of antique furniture covered with dust cloths.
A draft poured over her again, and she shivered. Immediately she felt it. At first it touched her mind like the inquisitive fingers of a little child, tentative, gentle. Afraid. As if it asked for permission. She didn't resist it at first. How could she? She didn't even have time to wonder what it was. But when it covered her mind like a shroud, reaching inside, the fear was too much, the deep feeling of dread too potent. She'd never given into anything without a fight.
She turned away from the room, and immediately felt the cold grip of a heavy hand on her right shoulder.
Outside the museum, Joe Danzia watched the front door impatiently.
That was it. He'd been waiting long enough. He got out of the car and turned the collar of his leather jacket up against the pelting of the rain. He jay walked across the street, then up the numerous stairs toward the front door of the museum.
A scream rent the air. Sharp. Loud. The sound of someone in the utmost grief.
Startled, terrified at the ice that traced through his veins, he ran up the remaining steps and tried the front doors. Locked.
It was then the lights began to extinguish in basement. One by one, section by section.
Along the dim corridors a soft murmuring began. As if many sibilant voices had risen in chorus, lifting their voices in a key that sounded suspiciously like the wind.
"Evil is...a moral entity and not a created one, an eternal and not a perishable entity: it existed before the world; it constituted the monstrous, the execrable being who was also to fashion such a hideous world. It will hence exist after the creatures which people this world." Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) L'Histoire de Juliette, ou les Prosperites du Vice, pt. 2 (1797).
Scully's Apartment Saturday 1:00am
Scully turned in her bed restlessly, a fine drop of sweat trickling down her forehead. She pushed off the covers, feeling the heat as she ran in her dreams, moving through the semi-darkness with a frantic fear born of disgust and horror. It leapt through her being in tight, hot arcs that seared her with a dread so fierce she wanted to scream. Wanted to shriek and never stop. She could feel it breathing, smell its stench, its insidious will to invade.
As death it came without warning.
As death it stole into her heart and threatened to rip from her all she held dear in one terrifying moment.
A harsh, sharp ringing blasted somewhere close to her, and she cried out, putting her hands to ears. The jarring ring of the phone shot Scully straight upright in bed, her heart slamming against her ribs with furious thuds.
She put her hand to her chest and felt the rapid cadence of her heart. She glanced at the red numerals on her digital clock. Who the hell was calling at this time of night? She grabbed the phone on the fifth ring.
"Scully, it's me," Mulder said. "You awake?"
"I am now," she said impatiently, flopping back onto her pillows.
"Did I interrupt anything interesting?"
She put her hand to her damp forehead and sighed. "A very interesting dream."
"Oh, yeah?" He lowered his voice. "What was the rating?"
"The rating. G or PG?"
"R," she said without thinking. "Mulder-"
"There's been a murder down at the Lincoln Museum. Skinner wants us down there right away."
She swung her feet off the bed and turned on the bedside lamp. "Why?"
"Homicide isn't through going over the scene. But there's some distinct abnormalities in this case, and we've been requested by the detective in charge. According to Skinner it's about the most bizarre murder they've ever seen."
"What so strange about it?"
"According to Lieutenant Kilov of the police department you've got to see it to believe it."
She closed her eyes. "And bizarre automatically qualifies as a case for us."
"You got it jelly bean."
She sighed. "I'm on my way."
Lincoln Museum 2:45am
As she rode the rickety elevator down to the basement, Mulder at her side, Scully recognized a slight twinge of apprehension. She had to remind herself that this wasn't like their last case at all. She wasn't going into a basement where an element from hell had escaped. She wasn't experiencing the warning signs of an ensuing phobic attack. But as the elevator creaked and moaned wearily, her stomach did a slow roll.
"You okay, Scully?" Mulder asked.
She nodded, but didn't look at him. "Peachy. Next time we take the stairs."
"Are you afraid of elevators?"
She gave him a reproachful glance. Since when had he become so perceptive? She had to remind herself of the times he'd confronted her, more than once, about her feelings in the last few months. Maybe she liked him better when he was a little more distracted, caught up in his search for the truth. "As slow as this thing is it would be faster coming down the stairs."
The elevator finished it's laborious crawl and soon they stepped into the basement and were greeted by a uniformed police officer who lead them toward the room where the body had been found.
Behind her she heard the screech of the old mechanism that worked the elevator, and outside lightning flashed, giving the scene a surreal quality. Thunder clamored, and as she stepped into the room where the body was located, more lightning danced through the dirty venetian blinds and onto the concealed shapes of the furniture. It was bazaar weather, a perfect backdrop for the scene before her.
All around them police officers looked for clues, dusting for fingerprints, putting items into evidence bags.
"Find anything significant, yet?" Mulder asked the officer who had lead them to the room.
"Not a damn thing," the man admitted. "Dozens of different finger prints. There's no blood on the scene, no sign of a struggle." The man looked around the room. "Damn strange if you ask me."
Scully knelt by the figure that lay in the middle of the room and tugged on latex gloves before she slowly pulled away the sheet. She looked at the body of Margaret Daily with a trained eye, but not a detached one. For many years she'd performed autopsies and observed autopsies and yet something about this body left her feeling unwilling to touch it again.
Scully guessed that at one time Margaret Daily had been a pretty woman with long blonde hair, and finely carved features. Now she looked like a desiccated shell. Someone who had starved to death. Her clothes hung like loose shrouds on her emaciated frame. Scully reached for the identification tag clipped to the pocket of the woman's suit jacket. Sure enough, the picture showed a woman in her mid twenties, youthful and with a beautiful face many woman would envy. Slim, but not skinny.
"Mulder, this can't be the same woman."
He crouched on the other side of the body and pulled the sheet down farther. "Look at this." Peaking out of the woman's skirt pocket was an unopened candy bar. "Guess it's safe to say she didn't die of anorexia nervosa."
Scully reached into the shirt pocket to remove the candy bar. "It's a diet bar."
Shrugging, Mulder stood up. "Any first impressions?"
Easing to her feet, Scully handed the diet bar to a police officer and he promptly dropped it into an evidence bag. "I can't tell anything from the condition of the body in this state. An autopsy will have to be performed."
"It doesn't make sense. Her clothes are way too big for her. As if she lost a lot of weight and didn't have time to buy new clothes. Pretty peculiar."
She glanced at the sheet covered body, then back at him. "You're not going to tell me this is the work of another fat sucking creature or a genetic mutant like Eugene Tooms are you?"
"No, but it sure looks like the worst case of liposuction I've ever seen."
Just then, a tall, blond man of about thirty-five strolled into the room, his trench coat securely belted. Rain had dampened his hair and his thick mustache. Scully noted that his broad shoulders and overall bone structure reminded her of Mulder.
"Agents Scully and Mulder? I'm Lieutenant Sherlock Kilov." His voice was soft and deep. He shook hands with them. "Fox Mulder. I've heard a lot about you."
Mulder kept a straight face. "Don't believe everything you hear."
Kilov's grin was wide and genuine. "What I've heard is that you're exceptional at profiling killers. Anything you can tell us about this murder?"
Looking around slowly, Mulder said, "I haven't been here long enough to be sure, but whatever happened to this woman isn't in the realm of the ordinary."
"We haven't determined the cause of death," Scully said, giving Mulder a stern glance, then looking back at Kilov. "There are no overt signs of trauma. I'd hold back the idea that her death is related to foul play until we have further evidence."
"Oh, it was a murder all right," Kilov said, looking past her at the shrouded body. Like Mulder he surveyed the room, as if he had all the time in the world. She wondered what he was seeing that she couldn't.
"What makes you so certain it's murder?" she asked.
Kilov cleared his throat. "I've been keeping an eye on this place for a long time. A few months back there was a series of problems with security guards. The museum used to have six guards on staff at all times, at least three of them working a night shift." "Six guards," Mulder said. "That's not very many for a museum this size."
Kilov nodded. "You're telling me. But they quit right and left and the curator got tired of hiring them."
"How long ago was this?" Mulder asked.
"About nine months. Apparently the guards would quit, especially those who had been on the night shift, after having been here one or two evenings. Now they have two guards. One for day, one for evening."
Scully was certain she could feel Mulder's interest piquing. His eyes widened slightly.
"How do they expect to keep a place this big secure? Whatever killed this woman wouldn't have had trouble getting in the museum," Mulder said.
Scully winced slightly at his use of 'whatever.'
"You're right. Not exactly a secure environment for a woman alone," Kilov said.
"And I take it the guards didn't quit because they weren't getting paid enough?" Mulder asked.
Kilov messed with his tie, pulling on it slightly as if it were too tight. "You got it. But no one ever found out why they'd left. They simply turned their resignations in and refused to explain why they were leaving."
"Uh-huh." Mulder nodded and began to pace the room slightly. "I think I remember hearing something about it in the papers. Around Halloween last year the Paranormal Examiner had an article on this place. They claimed to have talked to a couple of the guards and they said they quit because the place is haunted."
Reaching into his coat, Kilov pulled out a small notebook and began to jot something down. "By what?"
"The guards claimed it was an overwhelming feeling of dread. As if they didn't get out, they'd be possessed by something unthinkable."
Sighing, Scully gave Kilov the look she usually reserved for Mulder. "And what is to say that these guards weren't making it up?" she asked.
Kilov glanced at Mulder, who shrugged. She had the sudden feeling they were communicating in some primitive man speak she wasn't privy to and that it was at her expense.
"Agent Scully, I understand why you're skeptical. I was at first, too. But there's more that you don't know." He glanced from Scully, to Mulder, then back again to Scully. "When I was a little kid I saw something here that cemented my belief that this place is haunted. Hell, you wouldn't get me to be a security guard in this place either."
Scully cocked an eyebrow. She couldn't remember the last time she'd met a cop who wasn't a skeptic about psychic phenomena.
"What happened?" Mulder asked.
Kilov looked around the room and lowered his voice. "I was seven, but I'll remember it until I'm an old man. My parents took me to this July forth picnic the museum was having on the front lawn, and I wandered away from our area. Kids at school had been teasing me about being a wimp, and I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn't. I'd heard all these stories about this place being haunted, so I figured all I had to do was get inside the place, walk around a bit, then come out with some wild story about goblins or ghouls or something to tell the other boys. At first I just peered through the dusty windows. All I could see where shapes, but nothing else. Eventually, I went to a side door that leads into the basement and found it unlocked. I crept in, afraid someone would see me. All the lights were off, but the sun coming in the windows was enough to see by. I wandered around a little while, but I kept hearing things. Creaks, strange noises. You know how kids imaginations are."
His eyes narrowed, and Scully felt a shiver of something glide through her. It wasn't fear, or excitement, but whatever it was wholly related to the story teller quality of his deep voice, the hypnotic cadence of his tone.
He continued. "Then, all of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I saw this strange shape. It was sort of white, and lumpy. Kind of like mashed potatoes. When I turned to look at it, it wasn't there. I ran so fast, I tripped on the steps once I got out the door and scraped my knees."
Scully watched his mobile mouth curl up in a smile. She had a difficult time believing a man of his size would be worried about ethereal creatures he'd created in his imagination as a child. "Lieutenant Kilov, you're not serious."
"Absolutely. One thing I can guarantee. I never went back inside this place alone. Hell, I don't even like coming in here during the day."
"And the kids stopped teasing you when you told them story because you changed the ending and said you kicked the creature's butt," Mulder said.
Kilov laughed. "Yeah, that's about right. But there's one other thing."
"You have an abnormal fear of mashed potatoes," Mulder said.
Kilov grinned again. "The truth is that the night guard, Dougie Crampers, has talked about seeing the same thing on several occasions."
Scully shifted her stance and crossed her arms, afraid she knew where the conversation was leading. One Spooky Mulder was enough to handle, now she had a second one on her hands. "And what exactly does the imaginings of a security guard, and your experience as a child have to do with this woman's death?"
Kilov smiled slowly. "I'm not sure. I'm working on it. But when I heard about both of you, I knew life would be a lot easier with your help." Kilov gestured upwards with his thumb. "Upstairs we have two very frightened men. One is Dougie Crampers. He heard a scream here last night and the night before."
"The night before?" Scully asked.
"Yeah. But when he went to investigate he found nothing."
"We also have the victim's boyfriend, who was waiting for her outside the building. He also heard a scream tonight. If you include the way her corpse looks, I'd say that's a pretty good indication her death wasn't natural."
Scully glanced back at the body. "An autopsy or other evidence gathered will give us more information on what happened to her. As of this moment, I'm not willing to speculate."
His exceptionally handsome face warmed into a smile. "Are you telling me you don't believe this case is a little spooky, Agent Scully? A perfectly young, healthy woman with everything to live for suddenly becomes emaciated and dried up in the space of a few hours? Pretty creepy stuff if you ask me. I've never seen anything like it before, have you?"
Mulder shifted on his feet, and she was jolted into the reality that he was there. Talking with Kilov had completed distracted her.
Scully stripped off her latex gloves. "I've seen worse. The coroner's office should be able to determine cause of death."
"We'll take on the case," Mulder said.
Scully opened her mouth to protest, but Kilov spoke. "Glad to have your assistance. Mr. Skinner tells me if anyone can figure out what the hell is going on, you can. I thought you might want the opportunity to question the security guard and the boyfriend. We've kept them in different rooms. We wanted to get their stories separately."
"Have there been any discrepancies?" Scully asked.
"No," Kilov said. Kilov shrugged. "The boyfriend is a strange guy. Claims to have toured Europe and the Middle East volunteering on digs as an amateur archaeologist. But when I asked him a simple question most archaeologists would know he didn't have a clue about the answer. I am a little suspicious of him."
Mulder nodded, knowing that like himself, a lot of people received information from an intuitive source within themselves. There wasn't always an explanation for how they got their answers. Tell that to a man of science and it often earned you a look of complacent patronization, or at the least, a stony stare. He glanced at Scully. She looked on Kilov with interest, as if he'd said something particularly enlightening.
"Shall we go upstairs?" Kilov's asked.
Mulder cleared his throat. "I think I'd like to look around here a bit longer. Why don't you go on up, Scully?"
She nodded, reluctant. "All right. I'll be up in a couple of minutes, Lieutenant Kilov."
After Kilov left the room, she gave Mulder a censorious look. "Mulder, you don't seriously believe that ghost story he just told us."
He shrugged. "I've got no reason to disbelieve him. He seems like an intelligent man."
"I've never known intelligence to get in the way of your fantasies, Mulder."
He leaned forward and lowered his voice to a husky whisper. "Have you been rummaging in my video collection again, Scully?"
She sighed, turned, and walked out the door. Mulder followed, reaching for the small bag of sun flower seeds in his coat pocket.
"The Lieutenant has a strange name," he said as he came up next to her.
She glanced up at him as she walked. "Kilov? Sounds Slavic to me. Russian maybe."
"No. His first name. Sherlock. Did his parents hate him or something?"
She allowed a small smile to twitch over her lips. "This coming from a man whose first name is Fox."
"No evil dooms us hopelessly except the evil we love, and desire to continue in, and make no effort to escape from." George Eliot (1819-1890), English novelist, editor. Daniel Deronda, bk. 7, ch. 57 (1876).
Lincoln Museum 3:15am
Dougie Cramper sat on a chair in the Curator's office. His cane rested on his thin thighs, and he held tightly to it with both hands. His balding head seemed almost too big for his body, his lined face drooping with sadness, his blue eyes shadowed by fear.
What was the old man suppose to do, beat people off with his cane?
This was the first thought that came to Scully's mind as she listened to the elderly security guard tell Kilov what he'd seen and heard for the second time. Scully stood next to Kilov and listened with equal intensity. It was immediately difficult to believe this harmless looking older man might have anything to do with Margaret Daily's mysterious death.
"I fell asleep," Dougie said softly to Lieutenant Kilov. "First time I ever fell asleep on the job in all my thirty-eight years here."
"Fell asleep?" Kilov ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "You said you were making your rounds."
Dougie nodded, staring at the floor. "Yeah. I know it sounds strange. I'd just got through checking the basement doors and they were secure. Then I went upstairs to the fourth floor storage area to see if the doors up there were locked. Everything was secure, so I sat down in a chair by the stairs to rest my bones a minute. The lighting is real dim there, so it's easy to nod off."
"How long were you asleep, Mr. Crampers?" Scully asked.
"Maybe all of five minutes. That's when I heard it." He paused, as if for effect. "Just like last night. It was a scream. Loudest damn thing you ever heard. It echoed around the place for what seemed like hours."
Scully felt another uncharacteristic shiver go up her spine, and had to remind herself to remain objective.
Lieutenant Kilov glanced at his watch. "What did you do last night when you heard the scream?"
Dougie gave Kilov an exasperated look. "I thought something had happened to Margaret, so I rushed down to her office, but she'd just gone out the front doors without telling me she was leaving. I told her to always let me know, but she forgot a lot of the time." He frowned, his creased face drawing down like a beaten hound.
"And when you heard the scream again tonight you rushed to find out what was happening," Kilov said.
Dougie's mouth opened, then closed and he was quiet for so long Scully wasn't certain he would answer. Then he looked up at her and Kilov, his hands gripping his cane tight. "The heater in the basement had started to act up, and so I headed there. I hadn't even pressed the elevator button when I heard the scream. It was light...I mean I could barely hear it. Nothing like what I'd heard the night before."
"Like a different woman?" Scully asked.
He nodded. "Different. And the sound was more startled, more..." He shook his head. "I can't explain. Just different. Maybe it was Margaret, I don't know."
"Do you often hear strange noises here, Mr. Crampers?" Kilov asked.
Looking up at the younger man, Dougie's eyes sharpened. "I've heard more than strange noises in this place, young man. I've seen apparitions, felt crazy things you wouldn't believe. But I haven't seen anyone dead before." His face seemed to crumple, his eyes watering. "Not poor Margaret like that. Like something horrible had sucked the life from her."
Scully could see the genuine grief and regret mirrored in the man's pale eyes. She glanced at Kilov, and noted his expression hadn't softened at the old man's signs of distress.
"Do you regularly see ghosts?" Kilov asked. "I mean, in the museum?"
Dougie took a deep breath and closed his eyes. "Not regular. Only a few times. But I can feel them all around us, all the time. It's a gift being able to feel them." He opened his eyes. "Or a curse, depending on how you look at it."
Feeling her sympathy rise again at the same time her suspicions readied to take over, Scully pulled a chair closer to Dougie and settled into it. "Do you have any idea if Margaret was ill or taking any drugs? Anything that might account for her emaciated state?"
Looking slightly nauseous, he shook his head. "No. But then Margaret wasn't easy to get to know. Always had a ton of work to do and never a spare word for me."
Kilov shifted on his feet and moved closer to the old man. "Can you think of anyone who might have wanted her dead?"
"No. Like I said, I didn't know her that well."
At that moment there was a slight commotion at the door, and a bean pole tall man with thick gray hair stepped into the room. His face was pinched, as if he was extremely annoyed at having to be there. "Who is in charge here?"
Kilov turned to look at the ramrod straight man. "I am."
The man put his hand out to Kilov. "I'm George Baxter. The curator of the museum. I hear that Margaret was found dead in the basement."
Scully noted the coolness of his address, the lack of worry or shock in his voice. She could see that his eyes, even from this distance, were a glittering turquoise. Sharp, cold, dead blue. She shivered slightly as she felt the air vent above her in the ceiling suddenly go on.
Kilov nodded and began to speak, but Baxter threw his hands up. "I can't believe this is happening. Especially not now." When they all looked at him and said nothing, he continued. "The new Tears exhibit goes up in two days. The publicity might kill the exhibit!"
Dougie's eyes narrowed, and he shifted in his chair, pushing up on his cane so that he stood on slightly unsteady legs. At one time, he'd probably been as tall as Baxter, but the slight stoop of age had robbed him of that lofty stature. "I can't believe you're worried about an exhibit at a time like this."
Baxter's cheek twitched, and his lips pulled into a sarcastic smirk as he pinned Dougie with an attention akin to a bird of prey ready to pounce on a tasty snack. "Dougie, if I were you, I'd keep my mouth closed."
Admitting to herself that it was rather audacious of Dougie to lash out at the curator, she couldn't exactly blame the security guard for his reaction. Obviously the curator was a pompous ass from the word go.
"What kind of exhibit?" Scully asked, looking at the taciturn curator closely.
Baxter turned his attention to the Scully. "Banshee Tears. One of our staff archaeologists acquired some unique Irish Victorian jewelry from another archaeologist in England last year. Large emeralds in a gold filigree necklace and a ring. The museum registrar added it to our collection of jewelry around the world. We've been trying to get an exhibition set up for a month now but we keep having problems."
"Problems?" Scully prompted.
With the aplomb of a despot, he peered down at her with those disturbing eyes and heaved a sigh. "The exhibit specialists have been trying to clean the jewelry up, get it all ready for display. Unfortunately the specialist, all three of them, have come down with a flu. I'm having to do the work myself."
"There's more, am I correct?" Kilov asked Baxter.
"More?" Baxter asked innocently.
"I've heard that some other impediments to the exhibition have occurred recently."
Baxter didn't look disposed to talk, but when Scully and Kilov continued to stare at him, he continued. "We've had a serious of accidents occur in the room where the exhibit is supposed to go up. One of our maintenance man narrowly escaped injury when a large crate slipped from a shelf and almost landed on him. Our museum registrar was bitten by a spider while she was in the room and had a severe allergic reaction. She hasn't come back to work yet," Baxter said. He shifted his shoulders, as if in defiance of everything that had happened. "It has been a horrible few weeks."
"Don't forget the strange noises that have been heard," Dougie said. All heads turned toward him. "It's true."
"Screams?" Scully asked.
"Murmurings." He shifted uneasily, as if he wanted to run, but his old legs wouldn't be assured of carrying him far. "The whispers of those who died with that cursed jewelry in their possession."
"Excuse me?" Kilov said, his eyebrows going up.
Baxter sighed heavily. "It's a cock and bull story. When our archaeologist got the jewelry from the other archaeologist in England, he told him all sorts of crap about the jewelry and about the excavation where the jewelry was originally discovered."
Dougie fidgeted, his old hands gripping and releasing his cane. "They aren't rumors. They're the truth."
Baxter frowned. "Dougie-"
"This is more important than covering up the truth to suit your damn exhibition," Dougie said, his soft voice gathering the strength of conviction. He speared Baxter with a hard glance, then looked at Scully. "Those stones, that damn jewelry has a curse on it."
"Is this really necessary?" Baxter asked, pushing a hand through his gray hair so that it stuck up in undisciplined array. "Just because we've had a few problems with the exhibit, and because of those stupid rumors you heard-"
Kilov put a hand up. "I'd like to hear what he has to say."
Although her natural skepticism immediately rose, she could see the sincerity in the old man's eyes, and she knew that he believed the rumors, regardless. She pulled her chair closer and reached for her notepad and pen.
Dougie subsided into his chair, as if the weight of what he was about to tell them was heavy in his soul. "I don't know anymore. I just know that those jewels weren't meant to be found. Weren't meant to be dug up again. Why do you think they were buried in the first place?"
"I couldn't claim that I have never felt the urge to explore evil, but when you descend into hell you have to be very careful." Kathleen Raine (b. 1908), British Poet, Times (London, 18 April 1992)
Lincoln Museum 3:30am
As Mulder moved about the basement, away from the sounds of police gathering evidence, he used his keen attention to detail to garner information. Then he realized that using alertness to detail, the way Scully might, wasn't going to get him anywhere. How he knew this he couldn't say. Perhaps it was the reverent silence of the place, the stillness that inspired continued repose. For a moment he imagined himself standing in the cloisters of a monastery, listening to the soothing influence of Gregorian chants. But something wasn't right. He stopped.
Ethereal thoughts of angels or godliness didn't equate here.
This quiet wasn't temperate. Instead it harbored doubts, fears, silent grievances that itched at his skin and whispered in his ears. Forcing the insidious creep of uncomfortable feelings away, he pushed onward.
The basement was a strange arrangement of Rubik's cube rooms, designed it seemed more to confuse the occupants than to be of logical assistance. Maybe it was this aspect of the basement that unnerved him the most, rather than the way shadows formed along the walls in strange patterns. Or perhaps it was the smell of age and timelessness, liberally sprinkled with a sense of being observed. His left brain hammered at him for an explanation. Observed by the building? Preposterous!
The sound of his footsteps along the hard floor cemented the logic that he was alone. No other footfalls sounded, no other breath or voice echoed about the hall. Scully would tell him any other impressions he received about not being alone were purely his imagination. Taking a deep breath, he paused, tried to draw in the essence of the area, the scent that gave the place its identity. Maybe, imprinted among the century of dust in the corners, he would detect what lived within these walls other than the ordinary, the average.
He felt a sudden pressure, a drop in the barometer that hurt his ears. He put his hands to his ears and closed his eyes against the throb of pain that hit his temples.
Impressions came without warning, filling in the ambiguities with lightning speed.
He sucked in a breath, feeling his heartbeat accelerate alarmingly as the last sensation washed over him like a hot wave of water, pushing his head under. He realized his eyes were closed and he opened them, drew in another breath and gasped.
It had been the heaviest impression he'd ever experienced profiling a scene. He hadn't liked the out-of-control feelings that had bombarded him, threatened to come for him like lions stalking prey.
He took two more deep breaths. For a moment he remembered the case of serial killer John Mostow and Mostow's compulsion to create gargoyles over and over. Give form to the evil he'd claimed possessed him. But the feelings Mulder had encountered moments ago were much different. Heavier. Rapid. It had taken him time to identify and profile the evil that had possessed John Mostow. Even then he'd never truly KNOWN the evil nor been able to put a name to it.
One final deep breath equalized the slight tremble in his limbs. Had he just encountered the core of whatever had killed Margaret Daily? Mulder didn't know the answer. He couldn't say what amorality really was. But he knew it existed in this building, if not only in the basement. He knew it deep in his bones, in the ice water that had replaced his blood. Running his hands through his hair, and satisfied temporarily with his observations, he moved onward.
As he passed the registrar's office, he noted the antiquated artifact cases lining one wall. Tall and heavy, devoid of items, they rested like dark hulks against the white walls, giving the impression of watchman ready to pounce. Obviously this museum was modern on the top floors, with shiny new humidity controlled cases used to safeguard the variety of objects on display. In some ways this basement was a storage place for the unwanted. Where people and the work they did to make the exhibits come to life were out of the way. Here they didn't clutter the clean, professional image upstairs, the graceful, old world ambiance that greeted visitors as they came in.
Kind of like him. And Scully. Tucked away in the basement where they couldn't muddle the image of the F.B.I.
He stopped again. For some reason this word drummed in his head repeatedly. Was it that he was unwanted here? Did the basement have a life of its own and it was telling him to go away?
He shook his head and walked, wondered if he was letting the night, the shadows, the unknown influence him. Clear thinking required the ability to filter out too much stimuli, too much background chatter. How could he distinguish reality any better than a schizophrenic in this morbid, dark place?
He wandered towards the exhibit crew's offices. He tried the door and found it unlocked. Reaching inside for a light switch, he quickly located it and flipped it on. For a moment bright florescent light dazzled his eyes and revealed a moderate size room. Seconds later the light blazed higher, as if in a power surge, then extinguished.
Mulder pulled out his flashlight and switched it on. He swept the room slowly, then headed forward. Nothing of great interest took his notice until his flashlight caught a black metal door. He reached for the handle and pulled, but it was locked. Artifact storage, probably.
A cold breeze whispered across his neck.
Someone was behind him.
He whirled, training his light around the area as adrenaline surged deep into his blood. "Who's there?"
Goose bumps rippled over his flesh, reminding him he was vulnerable in the dark, both to corporal and non material forms.
His cell phone rang, interrupting the haunted atmosphere and causing him to jump slightly. "Mulder."
"Find anything down there?" Scully asked.
He sighed. "So far I can safely say that Elvis isn't here."
"Lieutenant Kilov and I finished questioning the security guard and Margaret Daily's boyfriend. The security guard is convinced the jewelry has a curse on it."
"What about the boyfriend?"
She made a small, contemptuous sound. "I'm afraid Mr. Danzia is a bit on the insolent side. It's going to take a few more minutes for me to warm him up."
"Warm him up too much and there won't be anything left for me."
"Never mind. What did the security guard say?"
"He claims that the museum is haunted."
"That doesn't surprise me. Not after what Kilov said."
"I don't think the stories Kilov told us have anything to do with Margaret Daily's death. Dougie claims it isn't your ordinary ghost that killed Margaret Daily."
"He said that since the museum acquired the jewels not only has he heard strange screams in the museum, but that the screams drove off the guards who were hired to replace him when he had a broken leg several months ago."
Feeling a tingle of interest dance up his spine, he began to pace the room slowly. "Tell me more."
"Joe Danzia and Dougie Crampers heard screams before Margaret was found dead."
"So they're claiming a screaming ghost did her in?"
"They haven't come out and said as much, and I'm pretty certain Danzia is skeptical of that sort of thing."
Mulder felt the hair on the back of his neck rise. He looked around the room slowly. He smiled. "This is getting good. I feel like a boy scout sitting around a camp fire hearing ghost stories."
"Are you almost finished down there, Mulder?"
"Yeah. Only a few more moments and I'll be up. You can tell me the rest of Dougie's fire side story. Don't forget the marshmallows."
"Don't get your hopes up, Mulder. He may be a great story teller, but I have yet to see what his tale has to do with Margaret Daily's death."
"Don't you think this place is just a tad bit creepy?"
"It is strange." She paused, then he heard her clear her throat. "Now you've got me looking over my shoulder. If I hang around this place much longer I'm going to be a perfect candidate to join the ranks of Frohike and company."
"Scully, you know the Lone Gunman don't admit girls into the clubhouse."
"Shades of Little Rascals, Mulder?"
"I'll change my name to Spanky if you change yours to Darla."
After he clicked off his cell phone, Mulder contemplated his next move. Should he try it? Should he open himself to this room? To what had been behind him only seconds ago?
The answer came to him quickly.
He closed his eyes and turned off his flashlight.
Scully found Joe Danzia to be more pliant to her questions after she proved insolence wasn't going to get him anywhere fast. His story stayed the same, no matter how many times he was asked. She came to the conclusion that he wasn't a suspect in Margaret's death. Beneath his hauteur was a stain of fear and sadness. He'd made the statement that the lights in the basement had done a bizarre dance at one point when he was watching the building. But at the speed he'd said the lights had gone on, a person would have to be in each room ready to flick the switch immediately one after the other. At Dazia's description of what had occurred with the lights, Kilov had looked skeptical but hadn't said a word.
After Danzia was released, Dougie Crampers reluctantly went upstairs with Baxter to check the other floors in the building. Kilov and Scully went out to the main lobby.
"What's taking Mulder so long?" Kilov asked.
Scully paused at the door that led to the stairs going down to basement. "There's no telling."
"He's a strange one, Agent Mulder," Kilov said.
"He's got his own way of doing things."
"Are you dating him?"
The question took her completely off guard. She wasn't sure whether to be indignant because he'd asked her such a question in a professional setting, or because he'd asked the question at all. "Mulder and I are partners."
Kilov's grin grew. "So?"
"We're good friends."
She felt her temperature rising with irritation. "Why do you want to know?"
His brows rose slightly. "You are involved with him."
"Mulder and I are professionals. We don't let feelings get in the way of our job."
He nodded, reaching up to rub his chin absently, a thoughtful glimmer in his eyes. "That's commendable. So what you're saying is that if I asked you out you wouldn't refuse?"
She decided not be angry at his boldness, too tired at the moment to care, too surprised that he was asking. "Ask me later today. I'm half asleep and my mind is on this case."
He grinned. "Fair enough. I'm not exactly awake myself."
The door she was standing next to swung open, and a parade of police officers came up the steps, pouring forth from the stairwell like soldier ants.
"I guess that's that," Kilov said. "I've got some paperwork to file at the office, then I'm going to catch some sleep. I'll call you later."
"About the case," she said, prompting him to think of any communication with her in a professional capacity.
He laughed softly. As he waved and walked away, she turned to the stairwell. Kilov was bothersome in a way, but there was also something about him that was intriguing. She wasn't certain what made him so vexatious, but he reminded her of her brash partner in more ways than she wanted to admit. Then again, there was no one quite like Fox William Mulder. The mold had definitely been broken, and she doubted if she lived to be a hundred that she'd ever meet anyone again with Mulder's fascinating qualities or propensity to provoke.
As Scully headed down to the basement, taking the metal stairs at a slow pace, she suppressed a yawn. She felt decidedly lethargic, and knew she wasn't going to be good for much the rest of the day. Thank God it was Sunday. She might get a chance to sneak in a little sleep before leaping back into the fray.
She reached the bottom of the stairwell and pulled open the heavy wood door. She opened the door to blackness.
Thick like a blanket, it covered everything in a murky cloud. Instinctively she reached for her flashlight and turned it on. Why had the lights been turned off if Mulder was still down here?
She heard the sound of something falling over, and she drew her gun, focusing her light to the left in the direction of the commotion.
Concentrating on keeping both the light and the gun steady, she moved to her left and peered into the darkness. "Mulder is that you?"
She looked around for a light switch and finally came upon one. She flipped the switch and the overhead track lighting blazed. Just as she turned off her flashlight she heard a strange sound behind her. She turned swiftly, her heart slamming under her ribs as she took a defensive stance.
No one was there. The sound trailed off. She wasn't even sure now she'd really heard it. Once her heart returned to some semblance of normalcy, she began to search the area. Where the hell had Mulder gone? Maybe he'd gone upstairs without her knowing it and was waiting for her there. It seemed unlikely, however.
She was almost to the exhibit offices when she heard the mumbling. "Mulder?"
No answer. It sounded like the murmur was coming from the exhibit office. She reached out to open the door, and as she stepped into the dark room and reached for the light switch, a cold draft spilled from the room. The muttering became louder.
It was Mulder's voice. She'd recognize it anywhere. She flipped on the light switch but nothing happened, and she was forced to reach for her flashlight again. "Mulder, are you-"
At that moment something dark came hurdling out of the gloom. Before she could draw another breath, a heavy weight fell into her, knocking her into a table. She tried to regain her balance, but the force came again, and she was slammed against the wall behind her with painful force.
I was not content to believe in a personal devil and serve him, in the ordinary sense of the word. I wanted to get hold of him personally and become his chief of staff. Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), British occultist. The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, ch. 5 (1929; rev. 1970).
Lincoln Museum 5:15am
Scully's flashlight flew from her fingers as her body took the agonizing impact, and she felt her consciousness sliding away from her. She struggled to remain awake, knowing that if she blacked out, her life might be snuffed like a candle by whoever had attacked her.
For a moment she was certain Mulder had thrown her up against the wall. But his voice sounded too far away. The weight pinning her against the wall released her, and she slid to the floor. As she reached up to touch her throbbing head, she heard rapid footsteps, then the light of a flashlight passed over her. "Scully?"
Mulder. He crouched next to her and gripped her shoulders. "What the hell happened?"
"Someone's in here with us, Mulder," she gasped, fully expecting another attack. She pushed upward and he helped her stand.
She heard him curse under his breath, and then he reached up and tried the light switch. The light went on. "Something was in here with us."
Reaching down to retrieve her gun, she started out the doorway. "Come on. Whoever it was is getting away."
He reached for her arm and held her back. "You aren't going to find anyone."
She pulled her arm away. "We're wasting time. Come on."
Mulder followed her and they did a thorough search of the rooms in the basement. As they tried the two doors that lead from the basement to the outside on the west and south portions of the building, they discovered both doors locked.
Scully stopped outside the exhibit room doors. "I don't understand how they could have gotten away."
"Because THEY aren't a part of this world, Scully."
She looked at him, perplexed. "Are you saying a ghost attacked me?"
"Something like that."
When she gave him her most skeptical look, he said, "Did you see anything?"
"No. I just felt the impact of a body against me. Twice."
"Or a force."
She didn't say anything, but she took a closer look at him and noted the dark circles under his eyes. He hadn't looked that haggard when she'd left him here in the basement earlier. "Mulder, what happened to you down here?"
He shook his head. "I'm not sure. I think I just had a close encounter of the strangest kind."
"Aliens?" she asked incredulously.
"No. I think aliens would have been preferable." He shivered.
"You okay, Mulder?"
He nodded. "Yeah. I'm not sure if I would have been if you hadn't come in when you did."
"What were you doing standing in that room in the dark? I could hear you mumbling. I thought you were talking to someone."
His eyes widened slightly. "Did you hear what I was saying?"
"You don't know what you were saying?"
He shook his head. "I don't even remember the conversation, if I was having a conversation. Are you sure it was me you heard talking?"
"I could tell it was your voice, but what you were saying didn't make sense." He smiled slightly, and by the expression in his eyes she got the distinct notion a light bulb had illuminated. "Was I speaking in tongues?"
"Tongues? As in The Exorcist?"
"You know. Latin."
She shook her head slowly. "You were whispering. It was too difficult to hear."
Then, unexpectedly, he smiled. "Maybe I've become a medium."
"I think whatever attacked you was in the room with me. Communicating. I've never been in a mediumistic trance, Scully." He took her arm and led her into the exhibit room. He went to the black doorway. "This is what I was looking at when I felt something in this room with me. I closed my eyes and tried to communicate."
"Did you hear anyone speak?"
"No. Not out loud. I was tempted to ask questions, but then I just let my mind go blank." He glanced at her, his eyes narrowing as he apparently tried to recall. "I don't remember anything after I began to open my mind to the room. I was standing here concentrating when everything went blank. Then I heard you yell."
Still concerned, she stepped close to him. "Maybe you should have a doctor check you out."
"You're a doctor, Scully," he said softly. "Check me out."
She reached up and touched his chin. "Tilt down so I can see your eyes."
Leaning closer to her, he allowed her to look in his eyes. Satisfied that he didn't appear to have an injury to his head, she sighed and let his chin go. "Your pupils are equal. Still--"
He took her by the arm again. "Come on. Let's see if anyone saw anybody or anything go upstairs in the last few minutes."
He nodded as they headed upstairs. "Anything."
When they went upstairs, they found Dougie and Baxter waiting for them. Dougie reported that no one had come upstairs since they'd been waiting in the lobby. Scully insisted on another thorough search of the building, even thought it would take considerable time. A few police officers were called back into the building, and they assisted with the search. The exploration revealed nothing, and Mulder and Scully returned to the lobby. Dougie came up to them.
"I don't like this one bit," Dougie said. "If they let the exhibit go on, something awful is going to happen. I know it."
"What do you think will happen?" Mulder asked, his curiosity rising. The old man was a mixture of simplicity and smarts, and he trusted him far more than the curator.
Shifting his feet on the shiny floor, he leaned on his cane heavily. He nodded toward Scully. "Did Agent Scully get a chance to tell you what I told her?"
Mulder nodded. "A little."
Scully gazed at Mulder soberly, and for a moment appeared as if she wasn't going to tell him. "Dougie believes that the Banshee Tears are cursed."
"How did you come to that conclusion?" Mulder asked Dougie.
The older man's eyebrows twitched. "The museum has been haunted for as long as I can remember. But I never heard screams before the jewelry was transported here. Never."
"And that's how you connected the jewelry with the screams."
"Yes. I didn't feel the evil...that awful sense of something dark and unwanted in the museum before the jewelry came here."
Mulder remembered that word echoing in his head shortly before he'd gone into the trance in the exhibit room. "Do you feel the evil now, Dougie?"
"It's dormant. It only comes out occasionally when it feels the need..."
Mulder watched his face transform from calm to clearly disconcerted. "The need for what?"
"The need for sustenance."
Alarm bells of curiosity went off in Mulder's skull. "Do you think the evil is what sucked the life from Margaret Daily?"
Dougie nodded, his gaze shifting from side to side for a moment, as if he expected something to jump out at them from the shadowed corners of the lobby. "Maybe. Yes."
Glancing at Scully, Mulder noticed that she didn't look as doubtful as he expected. That was a change.
"Have you felt the evil in certain places in the museum?" Mulder asked.
"I wasn't going to say anything earlier," Dougie said, staring at the floor. "Especially not in front of Baxter. You won't tell him what I'm about to say?"
"We'll keep it confidential," Scully said.
"Mr. Baxter cuts himself off from the other side."
"The other side? As in the realm beyond," Mulder asked.
Dougie nodded. "You could call it that. It has many names, I suppose, depending on where you're from and what you believe in." He paused and looked around, as if he expected something to happen, and when it didn't, he looked back at them. "Like most people who run places like this museum, he has to keep the official position that the rumors are horse hockey. His own daughter was in here one day and something scared her so much she refuses to come back. Still, he doesn't believe in anything supernatural. Anyway, I've felt the evil mostly in the basement."
Mulder gave Scully a speculative look, then turned his attention to Dougie. "Where in the basement?"
"The exhibit room where the Tears are stored."
Their sighs, lamentations and loud wailings resounded through the starless air, so that at first it made me weep; strange tongues, horrible language, words of pain, tones of anger, voices loud and hoarse, and with these the sound of hands, made a tumult which is whirling through that air forever dark, and sand eddies in a whirlwind. Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Italian poet. The Divine Comedy, "The Inferno," cto. 3.
Lincoln Museum 6:30am
Mulder heard voices raised not far from where he stood with Scully and Dougie. Baxter was talking with Kilov, who had driven back to the museum after he was called. Baxter was clearly aggravated.
Baxter and Kilov started in their direction, and Mulder knew Dougie was going to clam up.
With a stride that oozed authority, Baxter crossed the room and said, "I think our security guard has had enough interrogation for the day, don't you Dougie?"
Seemingly unfazed by the arrogant man's interference, Dougie nodded. "I've got some work to do before Al comes in for his shift."
Baxter, however, didn't stop for a breath. "Agent Scully, you say someone attacked you, but we didn't find anyone. What kind of bull is this?"
Mulder could see she was trying to be professional, but that Baxter overbearing attitude was getting to her. She stared directly at him. "Someone did attack me. Obviously they got away."
He stared back, his expression as unyielding as a glacier formed ions ago. "I don't want this investigation messing up the exhibit."
"More lives may be at stake Mr. Baxter. The museum should be closed until a thorough investigation is done," she said.
Making a quick assessment in his head, Mulder asked, "You have another day until the exhibit opens, right?"
Baxter nodded. "We open it on Tuesday morning."
"You may be able to open by that time," Mulder said.
Kilov frowned at Mulder. "Agent Mulder, unless you know something I don't, and Miss Daily's killer slips up real soon, there's no way I can authorize opening this museum that quickly. Especially after they were bold enough to attack Agent Scully in the basement."
"I maybe be able to figure it out before then," Mulder said.
"I think the Lieutenant is right. The chances of us solving the case that quickly are very unlikely," Scully said.
"Considering the way you do your work, I'd say so," Baxter said. "Lieutenant Kilov, I'd appreciate it if you'd make sure this investigation is wrapped up in a hurry. I've got plenty of work to do getting this exhibit opened, and I don't need sloppy investigation mucking up the works. God knows things have been difficult enough."
After Baxter stalked off, Dougie pinned them with a determined glare. "You think you can stop this thing. But it's too strong."
Kilov gave Mulder a penetrating look. "What happened to you down there, Agent Mulder?"
Mulder gave him a quick assessment of what had occurred, including his mediumistic trance. Kilov didn't look phased, as if this news was not a surprise to him in the least.
Kilov gave a low whistle. "So there is something crazy going on here." He looked at Dougie. "You've never been afraid to work here at night before, Dougie. Why aren't you afraid, now?"
Mulder noticed the sparkle of indignation leave the older man's eyes. "Because most things here can't hurt us. But this is different. I feel it. It's like nothing else I've ever encountered. I've always been strong, you understand. Aren't many things that could tamper with my brain. I'm going back to the security room and wait for Al to check in. He'll need a briefing about what's happened." He shook his head, as if exasperated, and started a slow, limping stride away from them.
Mulder turned around in time to see Scully close her eyes. He reached out for her arm. "Scully?"
"You okay, Dana?" Kilov asked.
She opened her eyes. "I'm fine. I'll be right back." She headed off for the ladies' room.
Once she was out of hearing range, Kilov gave Mulder a reproachful glance. "I'm taking her home."
Mulder felt an prickling of indignation at the man's easy familiarity with Scully and his proprietary attitude. "Why?"
Kilov made a sound that sounded vaguely like a grunt. "She was attacked. Because she's shaken up, and I think she needs to see a doctor."
"She's a medical doctor. She knows her limitations."
Mulder thought he saw the blond man's expression change the slightest bit toward anger. "Right, Agent Mulder. Why do I get the impression that neither one of you knows what your limitations are?"
"Are you saying we don't know how to do our jobs?" Kilov put his hands on his hips. "I think Dana needs a little TLC right now. She looks worn out."
The blond man's use of her first name made Mulder wonder if she'd given him permission to use it. The man was being awfully damned presumptuous in a professional setting. "She's not a quitter, and sometimes she pushes herself. She's dedicated."
"That doesn't mean she doesn't need someone to look after her," Kilov said, his voice dropping to a soft, perturbed tone.
Disconcerted, and not sure where Kilov was coming from, Mulder said, "She's capable of taking care of herself. She's a federal agent."
Kilov sighed. "But she's also a woman. There are certain situations--"
"Why, Lieutenant Kilov, are you sexist?"
Kilov frowned. "Of course not."
Mulder wanted to smile, in part because he was sorry Scully wasn't there to hear Kilov. He had a feeling she wouldn't have appreciated Kilov's attitude any more than he did.
As Kilov was about to say something else, Scully came out of the restroom.
Mulder watched as Kilov solicitously put his hand on her arm. "Do you need a ride home?"
She smiled slightly. "No. I've got my own car."
Kilov said his good byes again, his eyes colored with uncertainty as he left. When he was out of ear shot, Scully looked at Mulder. "What was that all about?"
He decided it was better to play dumb and make sure he knew what she was referring to before he confessed to anything. "What do you mean?"
"You two looked like you might go at each other's' throats at any minute."
He shrugged. "He might believe in the paranormal, Scully, but I don't think he's qualified yet to be a ghost buster."
She smiled slightly as they headed for the front doors. "That's why he called us."
Once they were outside, he noticed that she shivered in the cool of night. She did look worse for wear, and as they paused at her car, he was tempted to ask her if she really was all right after being unceremoniously slammed against a wall. Instead he held back. She hated to be fussed over. She'd proven that often enough in the years they had been partners.
"Kilov was worried about you," he said. "I'd watch out, Scully. I think he's on the prowl."
She frowned. "I can handle him."
He began walking backwards toward the museum. "Yeah, but can he handle you?"
"Where are you going?"
"I just thought of some very important information we need on this investigation."
She started to follow him, when he put his hand out as if to ward her off. "Go home and get some rest. I've got some research to do on cursed Irish jewelry."
"I'll call you when I have anything."
He saluted, pulled open the door again and disappeared into the museum.
FBI Headquarters Sunday, 12:00pm
Flipping through the Rolex on his desk, Mulder looked for the one name that might be able to help him on his quest.
When he found the name, he frowned and looked at the card closely. The corners of the card were worn, the paper turning slightly brown. He'd had this information way too long. He wasn't sure whether he really wanted to call her...that it was wise to call her.
Resigned, he dialed the overseas number, knowing he was probably going to wake her, just as he had Scully earlier that morning with news of murder in the museum. Then again, the Scotland Yard Detective had always been an early riser...
She picked up on the first ring. "Phoebe Green."
Her voice was as smooth as ever, lilting slightly with her particular English tone. Many years ago, when he'd lived in England, he remembered hearing that voice and having it mean a lot to him. Now he felt detached, all business.
"Fox Mulder?" Phoebe asked, her voice going up in surprise.
"The one and only."
There was a huge pause. Finally she said, "Why are you calling me? If I recall correctly, the last time I saw you, you weren't exactly happy with me."
"It's F.B.I business. I need your expertise."
Another lengthy pause. "How can I help?"
"I need you to check on a archaeologist in England for me."
Scully's Apartment Sunday, 12:00pm
The phone ringing for the second time that day pulled Scully out of a deep sleep, and as she had the first time Mulder called that day, she jumped.
Groggy, she picked up the phone and whispered into the receiver, "Mulder, if you've called me simply to ask what the ratings of my dreams--"
The deep voice wasn't immediately familiar. Then it hit her and she straightened. "Lieutenant Kilov?"
He chuckled. "You got me. Does Mulder often call to see what type of dreams you're having?"
Scully felt her face flush. "No. Uh...it's a long story. What can I do for you, Lieutenant?"
"I'm sorry to wake you, but I was concerned about you after this morning."
His concern was flattering, but she felt a sprig of caution. "I'm great. I was just taking a nap. I don't even have a headache anymore."
"Good. Than you'll feel up to me coming by in a half hour and taking you to lunch?"
Her first reaction was to say no. But then she couldn't think of a good excuse to refuse him. She'd just said she was feeling great, so she couldn't use being indisposed as an absolution. "Have you got some new information on the case?"
"Actually, I don't. But I'm hoping you might be able to brain storm with me over a juicy hamburger and a huge pile of fries."
The plea in his voice triggered a smile across her lips. "Half hour it is."
Sea Tide Restaurant 1:15pm
"What's your theory as to what happened to Margaret Daily, Dana?" Kilov asked Scully as she the waitress put their orders in front of them.
"I'm not certain I have a theory yet. It's too soon to make a judgment. Mulder and I have seen some pretty strange things in our investigations. Margaret Daily's death is certainly puzzling."
"You can say that again." He grabbed the catsup bottle. "If what Dougie is saying is right, and what Mulder experienced really happened, then we've got some really weird stuff going on in that museum."
"If Mulder said it happened, then it happened."
He stared at her, his eyes narrowed. He put down the catsup bottle. "That's a change. Earlier today you were convinced it was a human that knocked you down. Are you saying now it was a supernatural force?"
She lifted her fork to spear a leaf of lettuce. "I'm not saying that the force...whoever knocked me down wasn't a human. But if Mulder had a strange experience...when he has strange experience he's telling the truth about what he sees and hears. I never doubt that."
She knew she'd dumbfounded him by the way he tilted his head to the side and his eyes narrowed again. "I see."
She smiled. "When can I obtain a copy of the autopsy report?"
Kilov looked at his watch. "I can get a copy for you later today."
"Good. I'll pass the information along to Mulder."
Kilov smiled. "Do you ever make an investigative move without him?"
Scully had to admit it was something she'd never given much thought to. "Yes, but he's my partner. I'd expect him to pass on information to me." She knew that wasn't one hundred percent true. Mulder didn't always tell her what he was doing and why. His jaunt back into the museum earlier this morning proved that. "I rely on his instincts, and he relies on my adherence to the facts."
"Ying and Yang." When she didn't say anything in response he pressed on. "I'm surprised that an agent like you is stuck working on cases like this one."
Uncertain what he was getting at, but having a distinct feeling of deja vu, she cleared her throat. "An agent like me?"
"Someone who has the smarts to teach at Quantico stuck in the basement of the FBI."
"You know an awful lot about our work, Lieutenant."
"I make a point to know about the people I work with."
She nodded, acknowledging that he had qualities of a good detective. "When I first met you I got the impression you respected our work."
He must have realized he was losing ground rather than gaining it. She saw his light eyes do a transformation from detective cool to familiar warmth. The change was so dramatic she thought she'd imagined it at first. "You're right. I do respect your work. But I walk a very fine line in the department, Dana. I can't reveal my true leanings to anyone in the department. I'd be laughed out of town. I guess I'm just jealous."
He took a sip of his coffee before he answered. "The type of work you do. Ever since my encounter in the museum basement when I was a kid, I've been an avid ghost story, UFO, Bigfoot, crop circle enthusiast. You name it...I'm curious about it."
Now she understood where the deja vu was coming from. Two sources. She recalled the conversation she'd had with Agent Tom Colton when she and Mulder had first gotten involved with the Eugene Victor Tooms case. Colton had been more than skeptical, he'd been hostile. And, she'd thought Kilov had something in common with Mulder when she'd met him. Now she knew what it was. Interest in the paranormal.
She smiled. "You're a very unusual police officer."
"I've been told that. Maybe that's why I feel a kinship with you." His gaze lingered on her, his interest in his hamburger seemingly forgotten. "You're a very attractive woman, Dana."
Taken aback, but finding his brashness amusing at the same time, she smiled again. "Thank you. Are you sure this was a business lunch, Lieutenant?"
He looked into her eyes. "No, I didn't ask you to lunch just because of business. I hoped we could get to know each other and to trade information at the same time."
"What information do you have on the case that we don't already have?" she asked, shifting gears intentionally.
Kilov shrugged. "I'm not I have anything yet, but I plan on finding out."
"And you believe in this jewelry curse?"
Kilov had rediscovered his lunch, and took a big bite out of his hamburger and chewed it thoroughly before answering her. "I'm inclined to. But I want to keep my objectivity intact. It might have nothing to do with anything supernatural."
"Maybe." The longer she knew with him, the more like Mulder he seemed to become.
"Mulder's an unusual specimen," Kilov said as speared a French Fry with his fork and dipped it in catsup.
"He's...different." She was uncertain how to characterize an indescribable man.
"I heard from another FBI agent today that he doesn't exactly have a sterling reputation in the agency."
"I'm not sure who you talked to, but even though Mulder uses unorthodox methods of investigation, he's one of the most brilliant agents the F.B.I. has."
Kilov gave her a sly smile. "And does that make you the second most brilliant agent the F.B.I. has?"
Scully felt a twinge of annoyance. She glanced at her salad and suddenly wished she'd ordered the double cheeseburger with the extra large side of fries. Resolutely, however, she attacked the salad. "I thought we came here to discuss the case, not Mulder's propensity for strange theories."
He ate another fry. "Let's just say I like to understand the people I'm working with."
"And do you understand us yet?"
He laughed. "No."
Scully's cell phone rang several minutes later, and she retrieved it from her purse. It was Mulder.
"Where are you at?" he asked.
For some reason she was reluctant to tell him. But she opened her mouth and let it come out anyway. "Having lunch with Lieutenant Kilov." The pause on the other end went on for so long she wondered if she'd lost the connection. "Mulder, are you there?"
"Yeah, I'm here." She could hear rustling noises, as if he were rapidly looking through papers. "Has he got the autopsy report on Margaret Daily?"
"It should be available this afternoon."
"Any new information on the case?"
She sighed. "Apparently not."
"Uh-huh. Well, I'm glad you're enjoying your lunch. I'll call you after Phoebe gets back to me."
Scully knew that name all too well. It reminded her of a case that she didn't think on with great fondness. "Phoebe? Phoebe Green? Why did you call her?"
"The England connection. She's contacting the archaeologist who originally excavated the jewels."
"Have you been able to talk to the Lincoln staff archaeologist who brought the Tears to the U.S.?"
"I've left a couple of messages on his machine. Apparently he wasn't due into the office until later today. I'm going over to his office if he doesn't call me back soon."
"Don't go to the museum without me, Mulder," she said, injecting a clear warning into her tone.
"Would I leave you out in the cold, Scully?"
She glanced at Kilov. He was smiling at her. "Yes, you would."
"Touch‚. But speed is of the essence. I have a feeling we need to get this case wrapped up asap before anyone else dies. If Phoebe comes up with the information I need today, we'll be able to solve this case tonight."
"For fools rush in where angels fear to tread."
Mulder's Office FBI Headquarters 4:45pm
Mulder's phone rang, jarring him out of the total silence that covered his office like the hush in a tomb. He was so intrigued by the article he was reading, that he waited until the fourth ring to pick up.
"Took you long enough," Phoebe Green's simmering, sultry voice carried over the phone as if she were next to him rather than thousands of miles away.
Mulder smiled. "If I remember correctly, it was always you who took forever to answer the phone."
Her laugh was gentle, without a hint of sarcasm. "You're damn lucky I even went to the trouble to get this information for you."
He supposed she was right. They hadn't parted company the last time in the most amiable of ways. "I was hoping for dumb luck."
"Dumb all right."
"I can't believe you called me just to tell me you shouldn't help me."
She sighed heavily. "Do you want the information or not?"
"I talked with the archaeologist, Graeme Neeters, who originally found the Banshee Tears in Ireland. Neeters worked for the British Museum for several years before he left to start his own archaeological firm in Ireland. He was heading up a dig at an old cathedral in Cork and while they were digging some strange things happened."
Mulder felt the hair on his arms rise. "What kind of things?"
"There were twelve people working on the dig. Over a month's time, two people were injured, four people came down with pneumonia, and five others simply quit and wouldn't work on the excavation any longer."
"And the twelfth person?"
"Graeme Neeters had problems of his own."
A chill covered Mulder's spine, but it was more a thrill of discovery than fear. He lived for this. "Did the five quit because of what happened to the others?"
"All but one simply refused to go back to the dig and Neeters was never able to get an explanation out of them. The one person who would talk to him said that they weren't comfortable digging at the site. As if there was a curse on the place and they didn't want to be the next to fall ill or be hurt."
"It sounds like Graeme Neeters had a dilemma similar to Howard Carter when he excavated King Tut's tomb."
"I suppose you could say that. Anyway, Neeters finally came upon the Tears. What was so surprising, actually, is that they're Victorian era jewelry. He'd been excavating for much older artifacts. Neeters turned over the Tears to a museum in the area, but strange things began happening there as well."
Mulder sat up straighter. "Such as?"
"One of their guards fell down a flight of stairs and was killed. The new guard they hired was found with his throat cut the next evening. The next week, one of the exhibitors was severely burned when some chemicals he was working with exploded. They told Neeters to take the Tears back and that's when he discovered there wasn't any museum willing to take them."
"He tried six different major institutions and not a one would except the Tears. Apparently word got around fast. That's when he decided he might be able to get a museum in the United States to take the jewelry. He contacted Hayden Whitney, the archaeologist at Lincoln Museum."
"Back up a minute," Mulder said. "You said Neeters also had problems with the Tears while he was in possession of them?"
"As a matter of fact, he did. He put the Tears away in a safe at his home when he had no success housing them in a museum in the UK. Immediately afterward, within a day, he had a severe financial set back and a car accident."
"Is that when he got rid of them?"
"No. He kept them there for four months...until there was a severe fire in his house. He lost everything, except for the Tears. They survived the fire. He realized that if he didn't get rid of them, he might wake up dead one day."
A pattern was beginning to develop, and it wasn't difficult for him to ascertain what it was. "Thanks, Phoebe. I think I know where to go from here. I really appreciate your help."
"You owe me. Say, are you still working with that red head?"
"I'm surprised. I would have thought she would have bashed you over the head...or..."
She sighed. "If you ever get back to England, Mulder, you know where I'll be."
The dial tone buzzed in his ear.
He stared at the phone for several moments. What did Phoebe thing Scully should have done by now? Puzzled, he was still thinking about it when the phone rang again. It was Hayden Whitney. Whitney explained that he was working out of the museum for several days at an excavation in Virginia. He wasn't going to be around. But he did confirm Phoebe's rendition of Graeme Neeters story. Whitney was, in fact, rather nervous, and refused to speculate on what might have happened to Margaret Dailey. Mulder closed the conversation without feeling any more enlightened, other than confirming that Whitney and Neeters appeared to be telling the truth.
The phone rang for a third time several minutes later.
"Mulder, it's me," Scully said. "I've got the autopsy report on Margaret Daily."
"The pathologist wasn't able to come up with anything to explain how she came to be a desiccated shell. Even after the toxicology was done he came up with nothing. There's no explanation for what happened to her."
"I have an idea, but it may be a little strange."
"You make it sound like an exceptional occurrence for you to have peculiar theories, Mulder."
He picked up a pen and began to twirl it absently. "Just for that I'm not going to tell you until I see you later today at the museum."
"I didn't know I was going to be at the museum."
"You, me, and Madam Maggiore."
With relish he said, "Madam Maggiore is a psychic recommended to me by Frohike. He says she's the most accurate psychic he's ever encountered."
"And a recommendation from Frohike is a stamp of authenticity?"
"He's never turned me in the wrong direction before."
"Why do we need a psychic?"
"I have an experiment in mind, and it includes coming into contact with whatever possesses the jewelry. I think that's what happened to me in the basement earlier this morning. Maybe Madam Maggiore can try on the Tears and tell us what she sees."
Mulder's Car 6:45pm
As Mulder drove toward the Lincoln Museum, rain began to splatter the windshield. The sound of rain grated on his nerves, which felt like fine, taut string. He glanced at Scully.
"Tis the season," he said.
She looked at him, confused. "Christmas is two months away."
"Halloween, Scully. Halloween."
She kept her gaze firmly on the windshield, but her lips turned up slightly. "And?"
"There's a party at Skinner's house in a week. Are you going?"
As usual, it was difficult to understand where Mulder's mind was heading. "Not if I have to wear a costume."
"You have no sense of imagination," he said immediately.
"There's nothing wrong with my imagination, Mulder."
"Ah, that's right. Your X-rated dreams."
"R-rated, Mulder. R. Besides, my mother is having a party. I thought I'd go to that." She shifted gears in the conversation, realizing that Mulder would keep up his bizarre chain of talk if she didn't move into something else. "Are you sure this little escapade is going to work?"
"I'm wounded, Scully. This little escapade, as you call it, is probably the only way we're going to figure out what's going on at the museum."
Realizing she was probably beating a dead horse, she said, "We haven't even done a thorough conventional investigation."
"You know that doesn't always work in the X-Files."
"Yet it works sometimes. We have to treat every case as if it were normal situation until we've exhausted all avenues of investigation."
"Scully, are you trying to take the X out of the X-Files?" he asked, lowering his voice.
Sighing, she leaned her arm against the door and propped her head against her hand. "I'm trying to keep us on an even keel until we have no other choice."
He shrugged. "I see a flaw in that logic. What's to say that trying something like a medium, who might be able to tap into the direct source of the problem immediately, won't be effective faster than conventional investigation?" When she said nothing, he glanced at her. Her expression was neutral. "I'm not shooting down your advice entirely, Scully. I just want to experiment. If we don't get results tonight, I'll defer to your plan."
"I don't have a plan."
"Then we'll fake it."
They drove in silence for some time before she spoke again.
"So Phoebe got all this information for you in that short a time?" she said, turning a sharp gaze on Mulder.
"Pretty amazing, wouldn't you say?"
"Is that a yes, or a no."
"I'm reserving judgment." She migrated to a safer theme that didn't include discussion of the intemperate feelings that seemed to rear within her whenever they talked about Phoebe. "Tell me more about this Graeme Neeter and Hayden Whitney."
"Graeme kept the Tears in his home safe while he went did another excavation. His house burned to the ground. Several strange mishaps occurred to his colleagues at the excavation in Ireland, and museums refused to house the jewelry after one institution had a series of murders and problems. Neeters put two and two together and decided to jettison the Tears before all hell broke loose."
She saw a pattern in what he had told her about Phoebe's findings and was pretty sure where he was going with the information Phoebe had given him. "He subscribed to the King Tut, Hope Diamond theory."
"Great minds think alike."
"It's not very original, Mulder."
He slanted an amused glance at her. "After he realized what was happening he decided he had to get rid of the Tears one way or another, so he gave them to Hayden Whitney at Lincoln. They were acquaintances from university days."
"And Neeters never told his friend what had happened when people were in possession of the jewelry? Mulder, this story is far too pat. If Neeters was so determined to give these things away he could have passed them to some unsuspecting slob on the street. Why would he give them to a friend?"
"You've just asked the sixty-four thousand dollar question. Since all the museums seem to have heard about the curse, he knew it wouldn't do him much good to pass them off in the UK. And because Whitney wasn't on particularly good terms with Neeter, Neeter didn't feel obligated to explain anything about them."
"And nothing says Whitney would have believed Neeter anyway," she conceded.
A chill seemed to have reached directly into the car and wrapped around her entire body. She reached for the heater and turned it up full blast. He drove into the museum parking lot and parked in a spot close to the front of the building. He cut the engine.
As Scully turned to look at him, she saw how the light from the lamppost outside gave Mulder's face a blue glow. "You believe that there really is a curse on the jewels."
He nodded. "Yes."
"Let's look at this logically, Mulder."
"I was afraid you were going to say that."
Without a pause she said, "The original excavation team in Ireland had illnesses and accidents."
"And Graeme Neeter, when he kept the items in his house, had a house fire."
"Mulder, there's nothing to link these occurrences."
"Of course there's a pattern. Whoever has the Tears has strange problems. From the excavation team that originally dug up the Tears, to Graeme Neeter, to this Lincoln Museum."
"These incidents could have been coincidence. There's no way you can tie them back to the things that have happened here at Lincoln Museum."
He shrugged. "Maybe I can't prove it with tangible evidence, but then how corporeal would a curse be?"
Shaking her head, Scully got out of the car and they headed for the stairs.
"Yoooohooooo!" The wail came from the top of stairs, as if someone had materialized from thin air.
When she looked up, Scully saw Frohike standing at the entrance to the museum with an old woman who wore a bright orange and green flowing dress with a matching turban. Mulder waved.
"Madam Maggiore I presume?" Scully asked Mulder.
"In the flesh," he said.
How does one kill fear, I wonder? How do you shoot a spectre through the heart, slash off its spectral head, take it by its spectral throat? Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) Polish-born English novelist. Marlow, in Lord Jim, ch 33 (1900).
Lincoln Museum Reception Area Baxter's Offices 7:00pm
Mulder wondered if he he'd made a mistake when he saw the expression on Baxter's face when they told him of their plans for the evening.
"This is ridiculous," Baxter said, eyeing Madam Maggiore as if she were an unappetizing entree at an upscale restaurant.
"Is HE going to go with us to the basement?" Madam Maggiore asked Frohike. Her throaty voice, shaded with the remnants of an Italian accent, made her apparel seem even more exotic.
Mulder's lips barely twitched. "Do you want to accompany us, Mr. Baxter?"
He shook his head and gave everyone, which included Dougie, Forhike, and Scully, an imperious glare. "Where is Lieutenant Kilov? I thought he was in charge of this investigation."
"He'll be here shortly," Scully said. "We won't start without him."
"What do you hope to accomplish from this...this mumbo jumbo?" Baxter asked Madam Maggiore.
Madam Maggiore tossed her turban covered head, and her flowing robe moved around her thin body with a delicacy that reminded Mulder of statues of women from ancient Greece. Drawing herself up to her full five feet, she expanded her chest and raised her chin slightly. The effect was that of a person who could look down on Baxter and still be shorter than him. Mulder liked her already.
"We will go into the basement and make contact with the force that is causing all the mayhem, Mr. Baxter. We will rid this museum of the curse." She tossed her head again, as if putting punctuation to her statement.
"Curse? Curse?" his voice rose, and he pinned Dougie with a stare full of gristle. "If YOU hadn't made up that cock and bull story about screams and ghosts-"
"I did hear screams, and so did Margaret's boyfriend," Dougie said firmly.
Baxter looked taken aback by the forceful, but quiet way the older man spoke. He was silent for a moment, trading collision course glances with the museum guard before he turned to Mulder and Scully. "So you're going to be here until after midnight, is that correct?"
"Maybe," Mulder said. "We may need that much time to make contact with the entity."
Baxter looked at the ceiling, then back at Scully, as if she might be the only one left reasoning with. "And Kilov has authorized this ridiculous procedure?"
Scully nodded. "Yes."
"And you think that if SHE wears the jewelry she'll get insight into this...this so-called ghost?" he asked Mulder.
Without hesitation Mulder said, "Well, I'd wear the jewelry, but I don't think they'd go with my ensemble."
Dougie stifled a snort of laughter and Madam Maggiore gave a full bodied guffaw. Scully barely suppressed a smile.
Baxter's face turned as red as a strawberry. Mulder wondered if the man was about ready to bust a seam or have a heart attack.
Right at that moment Kilov strode in, a ready smile creasing his face. After he made his greeting to the group, he reassured Baxter. "I know this isn't conventional police tactics, but I know you wouldn't want us to leave any stones unturned."
"Can you guarantee me that this is going to work?" Baxter asked.
Kilov shook his head. "No guarantees. I suggest you forget about opening the exhibition Tuesday."
Baxter's cheek twitched, and then his eyebrow, as if he were trying not to scream. "I've already canceled the opening. My exhibit staff refused to work on the exhibit until we get this thing solved. I can's say I blame them."
"Was anyone working in the basement today at all?" Mulder asked.
"No. They stayed in other offices in the rest of the museum. I think the police officers you had posted around her all day made them nervous, Kilov."
Kilov didn't even look offended. "Better nervous than dead."
Reluctantly Baxter nodded. "All right. I'll be in my office if you need me for anything. It looks like I'm in for the long haul." He turned and strode to his office, slamming the door behind him.
"Thoroughly unpleasant man," Madam Maggiore said. "I hope he chokes on a chicken bone."
Frohike's eyebrows winged up and his mouth dropped open. He put a hand on her shoulder. "You don't really mean that?"
She shook her head and smiled. "Well, maybe not. But I'd like to conjure up a spook or two just to scare the boogers out of him."
Kilov and Frohike both laughed, but Mulder noted that Scully looked a little uncomfortable.
She pulled on his sleeve. "Mulder, can I speak with you outside for a moment?"
They retreated to the hallway outside the offices. Standing close to Mulder, she whispered, "Are you sure this is such a good idea?"
He had to lean down slightly to hear her. "Unequivocally."
Her expression was still pained.
"What is it?" he asked, a little worried that something other than her natural skepticism was bothering her.
"Are you sure Madame Maggiore is the genuine article, Mulder?"
He shrugged. "Well, I have to admit her clothing is a bit of a cliché, but if Frohike trusts her, I trust her."
"Okay. But I'm not going along with this because of Frohike's recommendation. I'm doing it because I trust you."
Mulder felt a warm satisfaction reach into his chest and settle there like a blanket of security. "Does this mean we're going steady?"
She patted him on the arm as if she were placating a child. "Let's get this show on the road."
Lincoln Museum 7:20pm
"Why do I feel like I'm trekking into the heart of darkness?" Frohike asked as he followed Mulder and Scully into the basement room where the Tears were housed.
"I didn't know you read Kafka, Frohike," Mulder said.
"I believe Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness," Kilov said.
Scully looked at Frohike. "You read a lot of classics?"
He looked at her hopefully. "No. But I do watch National Geographic."
Madama Maggiore sighed and put her hands out, then let her head drop back. She drew in a deep breath. Slowly, so slowly it could barely be detected, she let her breath out. "There is iniquity here. In the souls of those present as well as those dead."
Scully and Mulder looked at each other, then back at the brightly clothed woman. She folded her hands in front of her and looked at them expectantly.
"In the souls of those present? Scully asked.
Madam Maggiore nodded. "There is one present who would bond with the evil if the entity recognizes it as kin."
Everyone in the room glanced at each other. Mulder would have been amused if a chill hadn't raced over his body and replaced his sense of humor.
Kilov cleared his throat. "All right, everybody, let's not let our imaginations run away with us."
Madam Maggiore puffed up like a bird in mating season. "This is not imagination, Lieutenant. It is the essence of what is truth. In this room I feel..." She shuddered delicately. Her eyes closed. "I do not see who it is. But it is within one of us to lose control. To march to the darkness without regret, were its heinous riches revealed." She opened her eyes again. "We will arrange ourselves in a circle with me standing in the middle."
"Like a seance?" Dougie asked.
"Essentially that's what this is," Madam Maggiore said. "I will call forth the entity at the center of this jewelry and ask it to leave this place. Our combined spirits shall keep it from overpowering us and we will drive it out of the gold of the jewelry and out of this museum forever."
The group of basement explorers carefully arranged themselves in a circle as Madam Maggiore instructed. She faced toward the safe where the Banshee Tears had been stored.
"Let's get this show on the road," Kilov said to Dougie. "Open the safe."
Dougie opened the safe and Scully reached into the safe for the velvet bag that housed the necklace and ring.
"Bring it to me," Madam Maggiore said.
Scully handed her the velvet pouch, and when Madam Maggiore drew the items out of the bag, a collective gasp came from the onlookers. A large triangle emerald, perhaps four carets in weight, nestled in a thick gold filigree triangle. The psychic placed the chain over her neck and it rested just beyond the line of her bust. She slipped the ring, which was as ornate, though without as large an emerald, on the ring finger of her left hand.
Frohike whistled. "I'll bet that cost a fortune."
"A fortune in lives," Kilov said.
"We will be quiet now," Madam Maggiore said. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply.
As time went on and nothing happened, it almost appeared as if the woman had gone to sleep.
"Nothing is happening," Madam Maggiore said suddenly, opening her eyes. "There is no power coming forth. Power must come forth from this jewelry before I can ask to leave."
"We haven't been down here that long. Give it a little more time," Mulder said, removing his coat and placing it on a chair.
When they'd waited for almost thirty minutes and nothing happened, even Mulder began to believe nothing WOULD occur.
Scully took him aside again. "If this flops we are going to end up looking like total idiots."
Mulder's gaze grew intense. "Why are you worried about impressing Kilov?" he whispered.
She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. Finally she said, "I don't care about Kilov."
"Then what is really bothering you, Scully?"
She pressed her lips together, and Mulder thought she might shout at him. "This morning I stood in this room with you and heard you talking to someone or something that I couldn't see. I got thrown up against a wall. This could be dangerous."
"Since when has our job not been dangerous?" She'd grabbed onto his forearm, and he put his hand over hers.
She took a deep breath. "From what you said this morning, this thing...this entity...took possession of you."
He nodded. "That's right."
He looked deeply into the blue of her eyes, and an idea came to him. Or maybe he read the idea in her eyes. He turned back to the group. "I should wear the necklace."
Madam Maggiore nodded. "Nothing is happening with me. I think Mr. Mulder might do."
"Why Mulder?" Kilov asked.
The brightly dressed woman moved toward Mulder, taking the necklace off and holding it out toward him. "Because he is a very capable conduit. I'm unable to draw the evil forth. Perhaps he can."
"Are you saying Mulder is the evil you spoke of earlier?" Dougie chimed in.
She shook her head. "Not the evil. But the conductor for the evil to flow through. His mind allows for envisioning all that is possible. He is very open minded, and so the entity seeks him. Isn't that what you felt when you were down here before, Mr. Mulder?"
"I believe so," he said.
"Put the necklace on," she said.
Scully stepped forward. "Mulder, I don't think-"
He slipped the necklace on and looked at it. "I guess I was wrong. It DOES go with my tie."
Frohike snickered, but Scully threw him an irritated glance. "Mulder if you are the conduit for this...this thing-"
Kilov place his hand on her back. "Let him do it."
"Someone must also be his anchor." Madam Maggiore slipped off the heavy ring.
Mulder reached for the ring, but she held it back. "Since I am a trained psychic with many years experience, it was safe for me to wear both items. While you are a strong magnet for the supernatural, and you have a strong mind, I do not feel so confident. If you do not have another person as an anchor, holding this ring, we may lose you to the darkness forever." She looked about the room. "Who do you trust to be your anchor?"
Immediately Mulder looked at Scully. "Scully."
Madam Maggiore went to Scully and put her hand on her shoulder. Scully looked down at the smaller woman, feeling the strength in Madam Maggiore's fingers. "Your trust is strong. In fact, it has been tested and worn well." Scully took the ring from her and put it on the ring finger of her left hand. It slipped around, too large for her small hand. Madam Maggiore looked at the two of them. "Now. Link hands."
Mulder reached out for Scully's hands. He squeezed her fingers. Uncertainty and trepidation tightened her mouth as shes looked him, but he no longer saw disbelief wavering there.
Moving back to take Mulder's spot in the circle, Madam Maggiore waved at the others. "Close the circle. Make it close."
"What do we do now?" Kilov asked when they'd sealed the gaps.
The old woman smiled gently. "We wait for the essence. It will come to us."
Suddenly, out of nowhere, Mulder felt a sharp pain in his chest, just under the necklace. He closed his eyes involuntarily and made a little moan of pain.
Scully saw the pain on Mulder's face and squeezed his hands. "Mulder-"
"Silence!" Madam Maggiore cried out.
Scully gritted her teeth, barely reigning in the desire to rip the necklace from his neck and throw it in the corner.
Suddenly all the lights in the basement that hadn't already turned on began a brilliant flare that temporally surged and caused everyone to squint. Then it reduced, but the lights remained on.
"What was that?" Frohike whispered.
No one answered him.
But then they heard a whispering. A sound somewhere between a reptile's sibilant hiss and the droning of a Gregorian chant.
Mulder felt a stab of pain race around his body, and then he was oblivious to anything but a darkness that settled over his mind almost instantaneously.
"Scully," he gasped with his last conscious thought.
Scully saw the darkness fall over Mulder. At first she thought the lights had dimmed, but then she realized that it was as if his features were wavering before her eyes and turning into someone she didn't know. He began to sink to his knees.
"Mulder," she rasped again as she sank to her knees with him.
"Don't let him go!" Madam Maggiore yelled.
"Let me go!" A harsher voice, not unlike Mulder's in anger, moved through his lips.
"Don't let him go," Madam Maggiore said again. "It is trying to trick you. It is not Agent Mulder who speaks."
Like a shadow, the form came down between Scully and her partner, and she felt the force try and separate their fingers. It happened so quickly that she didn't have time to tighten her grip.
"Steady!" Madam Maggiore yelled. "You are his only anchor!"
Scully tightened her grip, the pain in her fingers building.
"Come forth, the spirit that lives within the Tears. Whatever you are you must come forth and desist from this terror." Madam Maggiore said, her eyes closed and her hands out toward Mulder and Scully. "Go from this place back to whatever evil trench you hail from."
Mulder began to shake, and Scully could see sweat forming on his upper lip. His chattered slightly. Suddenly, he shoved, and the force ripped her hands from his, throwing Scully back against Kilov. Kilov put his arms around Scully.
"No!" Scully and Madam Maggiore shouted at the same time.
And as they did so, the lights began to go out in the basement one by one, and a piercing scream rent the air as the last light in the room blinked off. Scully felt Kilov's arms tighten about her waist. "Damn it, let me go!"
Scully heard the commotion as Frohike yelled, "Turn on the lights."
"They don't work!" Dougie cried out.
Another scream rent the air, gathering around Scully's ears so loudly that it hurt. Around her the air grew thin, and she sucked in an amazed, painful breath. She wasn't sure if it was the pressure of Kilov's arms or if somehow all the oxygen was being depleted from the room. She heard a wheezing noise behind her and realized it was Kilov gasping for breath.
A draft poured over her. Immediately she felt it. At first it touched her mind like the inquisitive fingers of a little child, tentative, gentle. Afraid. As if it asked for permission. She didn't resist it at first. How could she? She didn't even have time to wonder what it was. But when it covered her mind like a shroud, reaching inside, the fear was too much, the deep feeling of dread too potent. She'd never given into anything without a fight.
Oh my God! My dream. It's my dream.
Panic threatened to take hold of her mind, and she felt the edges of her consciousness fading. She heard choking and gasps for breath and knew that it wasn't just Kilov or herself reaching for air. Everyone else in the room was suffocating as well.
Whoever or whatever had torn her from Mulder's grip was sucking the very life out of everyone present. It was then she realized she had to do something, or Mulder would die, as well as everyone else in the room.
She struggled against Kilov's crushing embrace, feeling his arms tighten painfully across her ribs. Realizing that he wasn't going to let her go, she kicked back and rammed her elbow into his ribs at the same time. It barely nudged him. If only she could grasp her gun.
Refusing to allow the edges of night close around her once and for all, she cried out for the one person who she knew would help her. Would go through fire and hell and damnation to reach her. She took the biggest breath she could.
"Damn you Mulder, fight this! Fight it! Mulder I need you!"
She heard a roar, this one so different from the screaming she'd heard moments before. "Scully!"
She shoved against Kilov one last time, and his weight fell off of her. Then as the lights came on one by one, she realized she was kneeling on the floor. Another pair of arms reached for her and she flinched. Then she saw Mulder, his face dripping with sweat, gazing at her with shock in his eyes and worry across his familiar features.
The others in the room were lying on the floor, gasping and coughing.
As she turned to look behind her at where Kilov had been, Mulder clasped her head to his chest. "Don't."
But she turned out of his grip and looked.
Kilov lay on the floor, his face much thinner and gaunt then it had been only a short time ago. Like Margaret Dailey, it seemed the Banshee Tears had claimed yet another victim.
"You're looking much better," Scully said as she looked down on Sherlock Kilov's face as he reclined in the hospital bed.
In fact, he looked so much improved, it was impossible to conceive that only a day ago he'd hovered on the edge of death.
"Thanks to you," he said, taking her hand. "If you hadn't stopped that...whatever it was, I'd be dead by now." He sighed. "I was the one it wanted. I was the one Madam Maggiore was talking about. The weak mind it could invade."
"It's over now," Scully said, not really wanting to talk about what had happened, especially since they didn't know that much more than they had started with. She didn't want to remember the moments when her dream had threatened to come true. When the tentacles of something truly evil had touched her mind and threatened to drive her to madness.
"Did Mulder find out if Baxter will release the Tears?" he asked.
She nodded. The sooner the Tears were gone from the museum, the sooner they all would rest easier. "He's checking on it now. Madam Maggiore and Frohike will get the Tears away from him. They're a pretty impressive pair."
As if exhausted, he closed his eyes. She started to move away. "I should go and let you rest."
He opened his eyes and tightened his hold on her hand. "No. Please stay awhile longer. I like having you here."
She drifted to another subject. "I understand Baxter wants you to keep quiet about what really happened in the basement. How are you going to do that?"
"Easy. We'll just say that Margaret Dailey's death is not solvable. Close the case."
"And you don't think your superiors will be suspicious?"
He shrugged. "They bought your explanation that I came down with a bad case of flu and passed out, didn't they?"
She had to smile.
"If they have a ceremony to rebury the Tears, will you be there, Dana?"
She shook her head. "You'll have to keep company with Mulder."
He smiled and squeezed her hand. "But he's not as pretty as you."
A knock on the door caught their attention, and Mulder came in.
"Mulder, tell me you have good news," Kilov said as he kept a tight hold on Scully's hand.
Scully noted that Mulder seemed preoccupied for a moment with looking at her hand linked with Kilov's but he quickly recovered. "Baxter is releasing the Tears, no questions asked. Dougie and Madam Maggiore are going to transport the tears to St. Mary's church yard and have the ceremony."
"Scully tells me you'll be there," Kilov said.
"No. I think I've had enough of oxygen sucking demons for a little while. I don't think I'm going to be fond of museums for awhile either." Mulder looked at Scully. "You ready to go?"
She gently pulled her hand from Kilov's. "Take care, Lieutenant. I'll check in on you tomorrow and see how you're doing."
Before she could walk away he caught her hand again and kissed it. "I can't wait."
After Scully and Mulder left the room and made their way down the hall, Mulder said, "I never got to thank you, Scully."
"For what?" she asked, surprised.
"When I was in that basement, and I let that evil into my brain, I could have gone to the darkness, where so many people have gone before me. The thought of you kept me strong."
Although she had told Mulder about her dream and had given him a hint of how that dream had come true that night in the museum, she didn't feel comfortable going too deep. Thinking to much. It was easier to pretend it had never happened. To cover it up like Kilov was going to cover it up. She looked up at Mulder. "I don't understand."
"I know you must have wondered, Scully. Is what we experienced...is the evil you felt trying to get into your brain what some unsuspecting individuals experience every day? Maybe what we think of as insanity, some chemical imbalance, is actually the entity of evil taking over."
She shook her head. "I don't know if I can go that far, Mulder. Believing something like that...it's easier just to say we don't know what really happened. I can't take something like that on blind faith-- "
He stopped in the hallway, and she looked up at him again. "Then don't. I'll understand."
"No, thank you." He started walking again.
"For being my anchor." Reaching down for her hand, he pressed it warmly, then kept it clasped in his. "You are, you know. In more ways than one."
Uncertain, flustered, and warmed by his gesture, she found that though she knew she should pull her hand away, she couldn't. Instead she looked straight forward and kept on walking.
"Gee, Mulder, does this mean we're going steady?"